Herbs of the Holyland by Nissim Krispil

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Ovate plantain
Common name:

Ovate plantain

Synonym name:

ovate plantain, Ribwort plantain, greater plantain

Hebrew name:


Scientific name:

plantago ovata


Plantaginaceae - הלחכיים

Arabic name:

זיבאד / יאנמה

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annual plant
0.2-0.3 m
Flowering color:
Flowering period:
Growing areas:
Common in the desert areas of israel, in the northern Negev, in the Negev Highlands and the south of the negev, in Kinnarot Valley and Beit She'an Valley, and in the desert of Judea and Samaria, the Jordan Valley, the Dead Sea Valley and the Arava.


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Ovate plantain or psyllium is an annual herb from the Plantaginaceae famely. It is Common in the desert areas of Israel. The ovate Plantain  leaves are narrow and covered with hairs. They grow as a rosette at the base of the stem. The flowers are Small white and borne in blossoms. The seeds are Small and whitish.
In the folk medicine of Israel it is common to use plantain seeds for wound care, skin problems, abdominal pain, constipation and intestinal inflammation, cough and hoarseness.
For treating constipation and stomach inflammation:
Brew 40 g of seeds or seed powder in one liter of boiling water. Set aside, in the water, for about half a day and drink 2 cups per day before meals.
This brew is also good for skin problems and skincare.
Several species of plantain, grow wild in Israel, and they are considered food for sheep and cattle. That's why in Hebrew it is called 'lekhekh' like the bite of the cow or sheep. The Plant scientific name 'plantago' reflects a footprint, because the similarity of the leaves that grows near the ground to footprint. The ancient Egyptians used ovate plantain to encourage sweating, reduce fever and treat digestive system. The great Greek physician Dioscorides from the first century ad recommended cooking it with wine as a remedy for patients who has fever. The ancient jewish doctor Assaf Ben Brachiahu (asaf the doctor) praises a lot the plantain qualities as a remedy for kidney, uterus diseases and eye infections. 
Plantain drawings can be found In a lot of the Italian Renaissance paintings. There it is a symbol of modesty or of the Holy Family. The leaf shape that looked like the head of the spear reminded people, the spear which by Jesus was killed on the cross. 
Persian Jews uses Plantain ointment for treating pimples on the skin. Yemenite Jews used roasted seeds of plantain to stop bleeding and crushed seeds to disinfect wounds. Moroccan Jews use a decoction of the seeds to soften and delicate the skin. The Bedouin of the Negev cook Plantain leaves with tea as a remedy for abdominal pain and use green leaves to disinfect wounds.  In some countries, plantain is used as a common medical preparation in pharmacies, especially against chronic constipation and inflammation of the inner membrane of the intestines.